Power Comics – The History of ‘Smash!’

Summary:

‘Smash!’ was the most successful of the five ‘Power Comics’ published in Britain in the 1960s by Odhams Press, a division of IPC. Targeted at boys aged 10 to 14, it was published from 1966 to 1971. This article is the first part of an analysis of the causes and consequences of the comic’s relaunch in 1969; a case-study of the economic pressures affecting the UK publishing industry in that period.

The cover of the ''Smash!'' annual 1969

‘Smash!’ was a weekly British comic, published in London by Odhams Press Ltd from 64 Long Acre and subsequently by IPC Magazines Ltd from (initially) 189 High Holborn and (latterly) Fleetway House in nearby Farringdon Street.

It ran for 257 issues, between 5 February 1966 and 3 April 1971 (although, due to strikes and industrial disputes, publication was not continuous during that period). It then merged into ‘Valiant’. The ‘Smash!’ Annual continued to appear each year until 1975; the final Annual, cover-dated 1976, was published in October 1975.

During 1967 and 1968 ‘Smash!’ was part of Odhams’ “Power Comics” line, absorbing its sister titles ‘Pow!’ on 14th September 1968 (issue 137), and ‘Fantastic’ on 2nd November 1968 (issue 144).

As ‘Pow!’ and ‘Fantastic’ had themselves already merged with ‘Wham!’ and ‘Terrific’ respectively, ‘Smash!’ in effect absorbed the best strips from all of the “Power Comics” lineup.

As with all of the “Power Comics”, ‘Smash!’ included reprints from America’s Marvel Comics; but the last of these, the ‘Fantastic Four’, ended in issue 162 in the spring of 1969.

‘Smash!’ was sized 9.75″ x 12″ (#1-162) and 9.25″ x 12″ (#163-257), and had a three-colour cover and black-and-white interior.

History of SMASH

‘Smash!’ was owned by IPC, the International Publishing Corporation, a company formed in 1963 by Cecil Harmsworth King, chairman of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Pictorial (now the Sunday Mirror), through a series of corporate mergers. All of the comics published by IPC were under the control of one or other of the subsidiary companies which King had brought together to form IPC, including Fleetway Publications Ltd and Odhams Press.

The “Power Comics”, including ‘Smash!’, were published by IPC’s Odhams Press division, and were controlled by a three man editorial team, known as Alf, Bart and Cos. Alfred Wallace (“Alf”) was the Managing Editor at Odhams, and supervised the entire “Power Comics” line. Under his direction, Bart and Cos were the staff Editors who handled the individual titles. Albert Cosser (“Cos”) was the Editor directly responsible for ‘Smash’. Major changes of editorial policy occurred in 1969 for financial reasons, and again in 1970 when IPC was taken over by Albert E Reed to form the publishing giant Reed International.

Smash and Pow incorporating Fantastic', issue 144, 2nd November 1968

Launched on 5th February 1966, ‘Smash!’ became part of the “Power Comics” line during 1967. On 14 September 1968, with issue 137, it merged with ‘Pow!’ (which had previously absorbed ‘Wham’). On 2 November 1968, with issue 144, it merged with ‘Fantastic’ (which had previously absorbed ‘Terrific’), to become ‘Smash and Pow incorporating Fantastic’.

On 1 January 1969 ‘Smash!’ ceased to be published by Odhams Press Ltd, and was thereafter published by IPC Magazines Ltd (an IPC subsidiary formed during 1968). On 15 March 1969 it was relaunched without its American superhero strips. Further changes followed during the course of 1969 and at the start of 1970. The final issue was published on 3 April 1971. It then merged into ‘Valiant’, forming ‘Valiant and Smash!’.

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